Editor’s Note: In celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD), we’re honored to spotlight Silvia Costa, an active member of the Women at First Mode Employee Resource Group, who shares experiences and perspectives on how to #InspireInclusion – the topic and theme of IWD 2024.  

Every day, Silvia Costa wakes up motivated to work at the forefront of low-carbon and zero-emissions haulage solutions for heavy industry. As Operational Readiness Manager in our Johannesburg office, Silvia combines her passion for sustainability with her robust mine site leadership experience to ensure the safe deployment of First Mode’s decarbonization products and systems around the world.  

 Successful mine site implementation involves a range of elements, from stakeholder preparation and change management to data-driven planning and systems integration. When done right, each helps ensure an efficient start while maximizing impact for our customers over time.   

 For Silvia, mine site success also depends on its people and their sense of purpose. “The relationship among the team, all dedicated to a common goal, creates a unique and fulfilling work environment. These aspects make mining a rewarding and exciting industry to be a part of – and why First Mode is not just a workplace, but a place where we can also be proud of the work we do and the values we uphold.”  

Bringing a Mine – and Her Career – to Life  

 Silvia is half Portuguese and half Bulgarian and earned her law degree in Germany. This cultural heritage and diverse set of experiences enhance her perspectives and contributions. They also strengthen First Mode’s cross-cultural connections and impact.  

This month, Silvia not only celebrates International Women’s Day but also her one-year anniversary at First Mode. Reflecting on her career, including what led her to where she is today, Silvia is continuously grateful the opportunity in 2009 to open and manage the Cronimet chrome mine in South Africa.   

 To bring the greenfield mine to life, Silvia initially helped negotiate the start-up’s commercial agreements and progressed to strategic operational, commercial and compliance planning. From there, she became involved in all aspects of the growing business.   

 And as her knowledge of mining increased so did her passion for it.   

 “It’s the sense of discovery that captivates me, the thrill of unearthing valuable resources from the earth that power our daily lives, from minerals for technology to metals for construction and everyday goods,” she said.  

Cultivating Resilience, Learning, and Personal Growth   

 At Cronimet, Silvia quickly rose through the ranks. After overseeing legal, human resources, health, safety, and environment, and procurement, she served for six years as the mine’s CEO, leading all aspects of the mine’s operations, from production and engineering to new CAPEX projects and labor union negotiations. Later, as the group’s Head of Mining for Sub-Saharan Africa, her remit extended across the continent.  

 In these leadership roles, Silvia navigated a near-constant stream of challenges associated with site operations, production targets, machinery availability, regulatory compliance, commodity prices, and other market fluctuations. In a predominantly male-dominated environment, she also initially faced bias and disproportionate levels of scrutiny from peers who had been in mining for longer than she’d been alive. 

And yet, the challenges she faced made her a better leader. “The mining industry can be tough, but your resilience can be your greatest asset. My advice [is] to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. Keep pushing through obstacles and don’t be discouraged by setbacks.”  

Inspiring The Next Generation of Women in Mining 

 Her advice for women is to lead by example. “There’s a growing community of women in the mining industry who are making significant contributions and creating positive change. Let us show the next generation of women that they can succeed in this field. And that, together, we can continue to break barriers and thrive.”  

 Importantly, and regardless of gender, Silvia also urges everyone to remain attentive during high-risk situations because “your own safety and security, and that of others, are paramount. In this industry, it’s about competence, dedication, and a commitment to ensuring the safety and success of the entire team.”  

 Ultimately, Silvia finds it extremely rewarding to see essential minerals propel civilization forward, including now into the clean energy future.  

 “While it can be demanding, the ability to contribute to both the industry and society at large makes mining an immensely fulfilling and worthwhile endeavor,” she says.  

Thank you, Silvia Costa, for #InspiringInclusion at First Mode and beyond.